WHITE SANDS, N.M. - NASA has extended the scope of a contract at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, N.M., to include the construction of a launch pad for NASA's Project Orion abort flight tests. Denco Inc. of Las Cruces will complete the work as a subcontractor to Enterprise Advisory Services Inc. The total contractual obligation between NASA's White Sands Test Facility and Enterprise Advisory Services Inc. is now $6.65 million.
Under the previous terms of the pact, Denco was responsible for the construction at White Sands of a 120-by-160-foot final integration and test facility building and surrounding site improvements and infrastructure. The extension now adds construction of the launch pad. The abort flight test launch facility will be located at Launch Complex 32 on the White Sands Missile Range. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston operates the White Sands Test Facility, located on the Army's test range.
The new launch facility will support tests of the launch abort system that NASA's Constellation Program is designing for its new spacecraft to return humans to the moon, the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The Orion crew capsule will launch atop an Ares I crew launch vehicle and carry astronauts into orbit. The launch abort system is an escape rocket designed to pull the spacecraft's crew safely away from the launch vehicle should a problem occur on the launch pad or during ascent to orbit.
The flight tests at White Sands will support certification of Orion's launch abort system. A total of five tests are planned, pending environmental assessments. Two pad abort flights will simulate an abort from the launch pad, and three ascent abort flights will simulate aborts at three stressing conditions along the launch trajectory. Testing is slated to begin in late 2008 with the Pad Abort 1 test. The Ascent Abort 1 test will follow in late 2009, and additional pad abort and ascent abort flights will occur through 2011.
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., manages the launch abort tests under direction of the Project Orion Flight Test Office at Johnson.
For more information about NASA's Constellation Program and the Orion spacecraft visit: http://www.nasa.gov/constellation
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